The Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives has launched a 16-day campaign against Gender Based Violence (GBV) and established a Gender Unit in the ministry amid the socioeconomic empowerment of women to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Friday. This is an annual international campaign that begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until Human Rights Day (Dec 10). The campaign was formally launched by the Federal Minister for Planning Development & Special Initiatives, Professor Ahsan Iqbal during a ceremony held here at the ministry. The launching-ceremony was attended by the Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Nilofar Bakhtiar, Executive Director, Higher Education Commission HEC, Dr Shaista Sohail, Assistant Superintendent of Police ASP, Amna Baig, students and civil society activities. “The development process of any country remains slow if the women are not given equal opportunities,” said the Minister, while highlighting the significance of the women’s participation in the development of the country. The minister further said that unfortunately, the women’s participation in the development process is weak and this campaign and Gender Unit will help to get the desired results. The campaign will be run in educational institutes of Rawalpindi and Islamabad from November 25 to till December 10 in collaboration with the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA). The Young Development Fellows (YDF) attached with the ministry will start visiting educational institutes to organize the event to create awareness among the masses. The representatives of FIA will give presentations on cybercrime laws and policies. According to a latest research report by digital rights foundation, 40% of women in Pakistan have been victims of cyberbullying in the form of sexual harassment, blackmailing, hate speech, stalking, identity theft and physical threats. While highlighting the women rights protected by the Islam and constitution, the Minister said that Islam empowered then women with the most progressive rights since the 7th century but unfortunately, their rights are misinterpreted. When Islam granted inheritance rights to women at that time the west had no idea of women inheritance rights, said the Minister. All the development projects would be planned according to principles of gender responsiveness in the Gender Unit, and the projects will not be approved without ensuring the interests of the women. Speaking on the occasion, Secretary Planning Commission, Syed Zafar Ali Shah, said that the campaign will help to create awareness among the masses to eliminate the cases of violence against the women. “The government is committed to empower the country’s women and the Gender Unit is one of the examples to empower the women,” he added. The participants appreciated the minister’s efforts for launching the campaign and Gender Unit and assured their full support to empower the women.